Watford 0 Liverpool 5: Firmino scores hat-trick and Salah gets another goal of season contender to ruin Ranieri's start

FINALLY, something for Jurgen Klopp to smile about after Roberto Firmino's hat-trick away at Watford.

The Liverpool boss has been on a mission this week to moan about everything and anything, picking fights with anyone he can lay his hands on.

England boss Gareth Southgate was given an ear-bashing for picking Manchester City’s John Stones over Joe Gomez.

Three Lions U21 coach Lee Carsley was singled out for treating his players like “machines” after Curtis Jones’ injury.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters didn’t escape criticism either, as Klopp demanded a public statement regarding Newcastle’s Saudi takeover.

Don’t forget the clogged international calendar, and the fact Alisson and Fabinho were forced to fly straight to Madrid to quarantine after playing in a red-listed country for Brazil.

God knows how Klopp would have reacted then had his ‘depleted’ Reds side dropped points against a Watford team under new management, without a league win for almost a month and without a Prem clean sheet in their last 17 top-flight games.

But if you can’t raise a smile after this sort of away-day mauling, you need medical help.


As for Ranieri, his debut game as Hornets boss in front of a packed Vicarage Road could not have gone more Dilly-Ding Dilly-Wrong.

After giving his title-winning Leicester boys of 2016 a pizza for every clean sheet, the Italian upped the ante before this one by offering his new squad a full-blown meal.

That offer lasted all of nine minutes. At this rate, the Watford players are on course to starve, and rightly so.

Sadio Mane clinched his 100th Prem goal in the easiest of fashions – and that was just the beginning.

Roberto Firmino added two more either side of the break before Mohamed Salah scored a trademark worldie.

Firmino completed his hat-trick in injury time. The easiest trio he is ever likely to score.

But in truth, Liverpool hardly needed to get out of third gear. Watford couldn’t find any gear.

For all of his quirky catch phrases and laugh-a-minute sound bites, Ranieri must now realise he is in serious danger of another brutal Gino Pozzo axing if he cannot turn this sinking ship around quickly.

But with six of Watford’s next seven against Everton, Arsenal, Manchester United, Leicester, Chelsea and Man City, Ranieri may already be having flashbacks of his nightmare 106-day tenure at Fulham.

Despite Klopp’s grumbles, he could still unleash his feared front three of Mane, Firmino and Salah from the off.

James Milner slipped back into midfield to cover for Fabinho, while Caoimhin Kelleher replaced Alisson for just his third Prem start.

Gomez – England’s apparent golden boy – was left on the bench.

Ranieri’s first starting XI saw three changes from the loss to Leeds under old boss Xisco Munoz, and most notably set up with a back five in anticipation of an onslaught.

It arrived in the opening seconds in the shape of Salah, setting the tone by smacking the bar after leaving Danny Rose for dead.

Rose continued to flounder, and the hosts soon paid the price.

Salah outjumped Rose from a goal kick, controlled the ball and curled a stunning pass with the outside of his boot into the path of Mane.

The pass was so good that he finished it first time in his stride to become just the third African player to score 100 Prem goals, alongside pal Salah and Didier Drogba.

It is even more remarkable considering none of those include penalties.

Salah was in a terrorising mood, forcing Ben Foster into several more good saves.

Up the other end, Ismaila Sarr – who scored twice in Watford’s famous 3-0 win against Champions elect Liverpool in 2019/20 to end their 44-game unbeaten run – had barely had a sniff.

Alisson could have played in goal remotely from his hotel in Madrid and still not conceded.

Watford tried to rally, but they were chasing shadows. And in the 37th minute those shadows were celebrating again with a training ground-style goal.

Milner played a one-two with Firmino and was then allowed to run into the box untouched before being teed up by Mane to then square back to Firmino and tap into an empty net.

As the half time whistle went, Liverpool had clocked 83.4 per cent possession.

Ranieri must have had a Dilly-Dong in the dressing room as he made an instant sub – Adam Masina off and Tom Cleverley on for an extra body in midfield.

But it made next to no difference. The game was done and dusted in the space of 120 seconds.

In the 52nd minute, Andy Robertson’s cross was diverted towards his own goal by Craig Cathcart, forcing Foster into a save but giving Firmino another tap-in.

Two goals in his first start in four league games will do the Brazilian nicely.

And in the 54th minute, a Salah finish that made you simply gasp in awe. Words don’t do it justice.

He dinked around four defenders in the box before sending Cathcart for a hot-dog and curling the ball into the far corner. That away end knew they had seen something special.

Klopp had one last chance to applaud his side in the final seconds, sub Neco Williams' cross was on a plate for yet another Firmino tap-in.

The grumpy German is all giddy again, for now.

Ranieri’s smile has been wiped off his weathered face. Whether that returns again during his time at Watford is another story.

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